Let them eat Shallicots! Battle Shallots/Apricots is here, and this meal was awesome! I love me some online food challenges – and FoodieFights in particular never disappoints. Think of it as the Iron Chef of online food challenges – 2 special ingredients are selected, food bloggers put on their thinking caps, create a great meal centered around those ingredients, post the results, and the world gets to vote for their favorite.
GO VOTE!!! at the foodiefights site
I of course have a little history with FoodieFights. I was fortunate enough to win the second ever FoodieFight challenge – Battle Rhubarb/Coriander. With the new and improved FoodieFights site up, it was time to throw my hat into the ring again and give it another chance. And when I found out what the ingredients were I was very excited. We are definitely an apricot (and shallot for that matter) loving family. So much so that we planted an apricot tree a few years ago and this is the first year it has started bearing fruit.
Unfortunately, our apricots are still green. Not to be deterred, I knew a certain local, organic farmer who would come through for us. You see, we live in the breadbasket, agricultural center of the world, and fresh produce abounds. Better still, we are fortunate enough to know our local farmers on a first name basis, and they are awesome. When our favorite farmer Kyle of KMK Farms found out about the competition, he generously donated over 3 lbs. of apricots for the feast.
These are not just any apricots. These are certified organic, locally grown, sweet as sin, juice dripping apricots, and I could easily make myself sick eating pound after pound of them. To anyone living even remotely near to me – rush out and sign up for the CSA from KMK – The Farmer’s Daughter. It’s a super cool CSA because you get to pick what goes into it, and it all comes from KMK’s amazing organic farm. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy the delicious bounty of the San Joaquin Valley and support a local organic farmer. THANK YOU Kyle, KMK, and Farmer’s Daughter CSA!
On to the meal!
There were shallots and apricots in the marinade.
There were shallots and apricots in the chutney.
There were shallots and apricots in the salad.
There were shallots and apricots in the flatbread.
The accompanying cocktail featured apricot alone.
The main course: Smoky Pork Loin Chops topped with Tangy Shallicot Chutney and Crispy Shallots
These babies were marinated and grilled, then topped with the chutney and crispy, fried shallots.
The marinade: a curry paste of apricots, shallots, garlic, jalapeno, tomato, cumin, salt/pepper, cider vinegar, and yogurt.
The marinade was blended together and the pork bathed in it overnight in the fridge. The thick chops spent about five minutes per side on the grill, just enough to get a nice char and some attractive criss cross grill lines, but not long enough to subtract the juicy tenderness in the middle. The pork took on some smoky notes (from the grill and cumin), a sweet touch (lent by the apricot), and a little kick in the pants (from the jalapeno). All told, the sum was richly delicious.
But the essential counterpoint to the pork chops' richness was the bright and springlike, intensely flavorful chutney sitting right on top, accompanying each bite. The chutney really played up the shallot-apricot relationship, made it right up front.
The chutney: a relish of apricots, shallots, raisins, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, garam masala, coriander, dried mustard and ginger, and salt/pepper. Everything was mixed together and simmered down for nearly 30 minutes creating a rich and bold treat.
Although the chutney was front and center, the vibrant flavors managed to somehow still be quite subtle, revealing themselves slowly over each bite and throughout the meal. My wife continued to call out ingredients as we ate because the individual components came through with different mouthfuls. The chutney kept each bite novel, kept the palate curious for more.
On top of the nice dollop of chutney was a few pinches of fried shallot garnish. And this was not just for looks. In fact, we all agreed that the crispy, fried shallot rings made the dish. The crunchy texture, mixed with the velvety mouthfeel of the chutney and the warm and smoky sweet pork was a shallicot dream come true.
But why stop there when shallicot is so good? And after all, one dish does not a feast make.
The salad was a perfect companion to the richness and warmth of the pork. It was a cold watermelon salad, with grilled apricots, thinly sliced shallots, feta and tons of chopped mint (from KMK Farms, of course). The dressing was a very simple olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper mix just to bring out the crispness of the fruit and tie it all together. It was a refreshing and delicious addition to the festive plate.
And because we love carbs, and because no meal is complete without some homemade bread, we went with a shallicot flatbread – naanesque if you will – to compliment the slightly Indian flavors of the pork and chutney. This was a simple yeasted flatbread cooked on a hot stone in the oven for just a few minutes on each side. I incorporated diced dried apricots and butter sautéed shallots into the dough, which was a really nice way to round out the meal. I reserved the butter that the shallots sautéed in, and brushed it onto the flatbreads as they came off the hot stone. The flatbread was perfect for sopping up the juices of the meat and any extra chutney you may have.
Finally, this meal was a celebration of the season’s bounty, the online and local food communities, and general deliciousness of springtime everywhere... and we all know that every celebration needs a cocktail. I pureed some of the fresh apricots with a touch of water and mixed it in a cocktail shaker in a 1:1 ratio with vodka and a bit of powdered sugar. I then strained that into a cocktail glass and added a little more apricot puree. It was topped off with sparkling lemon soda.
And that my friends, is a Tangy Shallicot Infused Feast!
And that my friends, is a Tangy Shallicot Infused Feast!